The Lost Art of Meditation

People do not value meditation enough today. We all seem to be in such a hurry to get to the next thing on our to-do list that we spend very little time actually thinking about what we are doing or what we ought to do. It would be easy to blame the nature of society with all its deadlines, time management emphasis, and short attention spans. The constant visual stimuli we receive in movies or on television, the immediate access to information all around the world, and the ease with which we can use a Bible program to look up scriptures or read a commentator’s insights on a passage all reflect our value of speed. People are concerned with the length of sermons and when we are going to be done with a book in Bible class so we can get to the next book. All of these issues point back to the lack of appreciation for biblical meditation.

The very first psalm begins, “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night” (Psa. 1:1-2). Biblical meditation is a deliberate and focused effort to think seriously and deeply about what God has said in His Word. It demands giving attention to the message of scripture through careful reading and study, but meditation is not impersonal textual analysis. Indeed, biblical meditation conducted properly is personal to the very core. Meditation means filling yourself with God’s Word so as to internalize the message, to make it your life. This is not mere memorization of a number of scriptures, though that certainly helps. Instead, it is the intentional effort given to think deeply about how the message of inspiration should affect your life down to the last detail. Meditation means looking for personal applications in every thing you see in scripture, slowly but surely examining every aspect of your life and comparing it with God’s will. A person who meditates in this way does not wait for a preacher to point out these lessons because he is constantly seeking them himself. Meditation means rejecting the advice of the ungodly, of sinners, and of the scornful to pursue the guidance of Almighty God through a sincere contemplation of His will. Biblical meditation therefore takes a simple scripture about putting spiritual matters first in life (Matt. 6:33; Col. 3:1-2) and spends time and energy trying to see how to do this better in every aspect of life. Biblical meditation means asking yourself questions about whether or not you have actually applied a scripture personally, how you could improve, and how you could be more Christlike. As the rest of Psalm 1 illustrates, the purpose of meditation is to prepare a soul not only to feel good but to DO good (Ps. 1:3-6).

Meditation should not be a merely mental exercise designed to encourage self-approval. To the contrary, biblical meditation seeks something far greater: divine approval. However, to achieve this end, meditation must focus—every step of the way—on God’s revealed will. In a sense, meditation is the mental effort given to make sure that your life matches God’s will, beginning with the integrity to discover it through a study of scripture and only ending when the lessons learned have been made part of life through faith. But this kind of thought takes time. In an age where a computer program or app on your phone can provide instant access to word studies, commentaries, and other helps, people are leaving out the most important part of their study, the meditation necessary to make that message and that meaning part of your life instead of just something they have heard, read, and thus know. Therefore, do not just read the Bible. Do not just read what others say about the Bible. Meditate on the words of the Bible, for this is what gives vitality to spiritual life.

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